Learning culture

Learning culture is a research-based measure from the Tell Them From Me surveys. It is a source of evidence linked to What works best and the School Excellence Framework.

What is it?

Learning culture refers to a set of factors that characterise the learning environment of a school, including its physical features, its culture, and teachers' practices. These factors alongside quality instruction and learning time, are the foundations for success of a school. The learning culture of a school is reflected in the relationships between teachers and students, the disciplinary climate of classrooms, and the norms for academic success.

The Tell Them From Me surveys ask teachers about the practices that they employ to impart high expectations to students and ensure all students are engage in learning the classroom. The results are reported as teachers' average score for learning culture.

Why is it important?

When teachers maintain a culture of high expectations, students have higher achievement; in contrast, when teachers have low or negative expectations, student achievement suffers. Students who describe their classroom disciplinary climate as positive are more likely to report high levels of interest, motivation, and enjoyment in learning. Students prefer teachers who establish learning environments characterised by interdependence and a strong culture of learning and positive teacher-student relations increase students' motivation and engagement.

School improvement links

School Excellence Framework element What works best theme
Learning culture High expectations
Effective classroom practice Classroom management

Evidence base

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Hughes, J. N., Cavell, T. A., & Willson, V. (2001). Further support for the developmental significance of the quality of the teacher–student relationship. Journal of School Psychology, 39(4), 289-301

Rubie‐Davies, C., Hattie, J., & Hamilton, R. (2006). Expecting the best for students: Teacher expectations and academic outcomes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(3), 429-444.

Willms, J. D. (2010). School Composition and Contextual Effects on Student Outcomes. Teachers College Record, 112(4), 1008-1037.

Willms, J. D., Friesen, S. & Milton, P. (2009). Transforming classrooms through social, academic, and intellectual engagement. “What did you do in school today?” research series: Report number one. Toronto: Canadian Education Association.

Willms, J. D. & Tramonte, L. (2014). Towards the Development of Contextual Questionnaires for the PISA for Development Study. Report prepared for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Image: This explainer has been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar

Explainers of the Tell Them From Me measures have been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar. The Tell Them From Me measures are provided by, and remain the intellectual property of, The Learning Bar. The explainers can also be found online within the Tell Them From Me portal. Tell Them From Me and TTFM are trademarks of The Learning Bar.


  • Student engagement and wellbeing
  • Tell Them From Me

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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